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Research Interests

The primary focus of my research is to determine the evolutionary relationships of the eukaryotes and the cellular and genomic innovations associated with the emergence and diversification of the eukaryotic cell. My research uses: 1) comparative genomics and phylogenetics to understand the evolution of the eukaryotes where genomic data is available and 2) environmental gene library experiments to fill gaps in our current understanding of eukaryotic diversity and the eukaryotic phylogeny, by investigating eukaryotic groups directly from the environment.

Our work includes comparative genomic and phylogenetic studies on the origin and evolution of eukaryotic organelles, the eukaryotic cytoskeleton and associated molecular motors. We use a combination of different approaches to reconstruct the eukaryotic phylogeny. We also study cases of horizontal gene transfer involving eukaryotic genomes. Finally, we are trying to sample genome sequences from novel, previously uncharacterized and unculturable eukaryotic microbial groups in order to improve our understanding of eukaryotic evolution.

Research funding

  • 2007: Systematics Association funded project using environmental gene library analysis to investigate the molecular diversity and evolutionary placement of a highly novel and diverse fungal group.
  • 2007: Collaborative Scheme for Systematics Research (CoSyst) funded project to investigate the molecular diversity of the eukaryotes using a multi-environment DNA PCR approach and a large-scale 454 parallel tag DNA sequencing strategy.
  • 2006: A BBSRC funded studentship project to reconstruct the evolutionary history of endocytic anchors.
  • 2006: University funded GTA studentship to develop a bioinformatic approach to detect gene fusions and gene duplications as evolutionary markers.
  • 2006: Leverhulme Trust funded genome shotgun sequence draft assembly of a small free-living heterotrophic, cercozoan flagellate.
  • 2005: A DEFRA funded project to investigate horizontal gene transfer between plants and plant associated microbes.
  • <>2005: Amazon Conservation Association Grant to study the diversity of the eukaryote microbial groups Alveolata and Cercozoa in a tropical rainforest environment using microscopy and molecular inference.
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